Truthfulness and faith
I was sent to serve in Seva Prathisthan, our general hospital in Calcutta. The financial condition of the hospital was very poor. There was no certainty about where the money would come for paying the monthly salary of the staff. By the 20th – 21st of every month we used to start worrying about it. During crisis situations, we would borrow a substantial amount from a wellwisher and return the same to him the next month. But how long could we be dependent on one person? I would sometimes tell Maharaj, “We should make some good arrangement for revenue.” But he would reply, “It is okay. What is there to fear? Why are you worried? This Pratishthan belongs to Thakur, Maa, Swamiji. Why are you so worried”? In spite of Maharaj’s assurance I had my worries. Under these circumstances, I faced the following incident.
It was the time when the Indian Government had imposed Emergency and announced a date for declaring all undeclared assets. One day a gentleman who was a Manager in one of the Birla Companies came to meet Gahananandaji. But as Maharaj was out of station, I received the gentleman in my room which was opposite to Maharaj’s room. The man was carrying a suitcase full of cash. He said, “There is Rs. 50,000 in this. Please accept it.” When I asked him for the donor’s name and address, he kept quiet. Then I suggested, “You please tell me. I will note it down.” Still uneasy with my request, he asked, “Why? What is the problem?” He then started explaining the situation from his perspective. When I insisted that he had to give the donor’s name and address, he said, “In that case, I will go to another organisation which is close by.” In all humility I told him, “You can surely do so.” Meanwhile, a hint of worry was creeping into my mind about the fact that, it was already past the 20th of the month and we had to arrange funds for the next month’s salary. Finally, the gentleman exclaimed in an exasperated tone Tum buddhu hai “You are a fool.” I listened to him without uttering a word and dropped him to his car. He had come in a fairly big car.
The next day, on Gahanananda Maharaj’s return, I narrated the entire incident to him. He told me, “You have done the right thing. I have told you Thakur, Maa, Swamiji are there, so why do you worry?”
To run administrative affairs on the foundation of unflinching faith in God is not an easy task. (Similar incident: No compromise with principles)
— Swami Prabhananda
When I was at Seva Prathishtan, our multi-speciality hospital in Calcutta, I often noticed that speaking with doctors or while visiting patients along with the doctors, Swami Gahananandaji would tell the doctors, “Whenever you are examining a patient please think that the patient is related to you. You will see your diagnosis and treatment will be far more effective and the patient will also respond better.” Though I heard Maharaj repeat these words often, they did not make any special impression on my mind.
Once, a gentleman working in a senior position in a Government Office was admitted and underwent treatment for quite some time. After recovery, when he was discharged, he came to meet me to express his gratitude. The doctor who had treated him happened to be sitting in front of me at that time. So, the gentleman expressed his gratitude to the doctor as well. While conversing so, it was revealed that the gentleman was a close relative of the doctor. They had not recognised each other because they were out of touch for a long time. The doctor then told him, “You should have introduced yourself to me earlier.”
After the gentleman left, I asked the doctor, “What is the matter? If you had known about your relationship earlier, what would have you done?”
The doctor replied, “I would have taken a little more care.”
“What a terrible thing,” I blurted out.
I then realised the importance of Gahananandaji repeatedly asking the doctors to look upon all patients as their own relatives.
— Swami Prabhananda
Perfection in work
Swami Gahananandaji had then just joined Bhubaneswar Ashrama, and was known as Br. Naresh. The head of the centre Swami Nirvananandaji had given him the responsibility of serving Swami Shankarananda Maharaj who was at the Math on a visit.
One day Shankaranandaji returned from his morning walk and took off his shawl and kept it without folding it. Finding an opportunity, Br. Naresh folded the shawl and kept it on the dress hanger.
The next day when Shankaranandaji came back from his morning walk and took off his shawl, Br. Naresh once again was about to fold the shawl. Just then Shankaranandaji in his usual serious voice said, “Leave it, you will end up creating more work for me.” The shawl fell from the hands of a shocked Br. Naresh!
But this did not dampen his spirit. He closely observed how Shankaranandaji neatly folded the shawl maintaining its folds. The next day when Shankaranandaji took off the shawl, Br. Naresh, with great care, folded it to perfection. After that Shankaranandaji did not have any reservation in Br. Naresh folding the shawl.
The mind-set of Gahananandaji revealed from this shawl-folding episode could well be taken as the key to his life’s success. When he set his eyes on any work, he would do it silently, with utmost patience and sincerity, and in spite of any obstacles, he would tenaciously pursue and complete it.
Discipline with love
Once, some workers were suspended from duty for misconduct. All formalities of suspension were followed. Just after a couple of days, Gahanananda Maharaj called us and told, “You rest satisfied after suspending them. Have you ever given it a thought how they will run their family? Their family didn’t do any wrong.” Therefore, the workers who were suspended for a month for valid reasons, were reinstated in duty within three days. Such was his concern for the workers.
— Swami Lokanathananda
To get or to give?
I joined Deoghar Ashrama as a brahmachari and during my stay there Swami Gahanananda Maharaj, who was then one of the Vice Presidents of the Order, visited Deoghar 2-3 times to give mantra-diksha. On one such occasion, while meeting all the swamis and brahmacharis at night, he asked each brahmachari why he had left his home and joined the Sangha. “For God-realisation”, “for seeing God face to face”, “for getting peace of mind”, “for the eradication of worldly sufferings” were the stereotype answers given by almost all of us. The scene is still vivid in my memory. After all of us replied to that question, Maharaj very seriously remarked, “I see, all of you have joined this holy order for getting something, not for giving something!!” That was a life-time message for all of us.
— Swami Tattwasarananda
Sarva deva devi swarupa
Before taking up any new responsibility, senior swamis would visit Swami Shantaswarupananda Maharaj, commony addressed as Parvati Maharaj, at Lucknow Ashrama and seek his guidance and blessings. When Swami Gahanananda Maharaj was ordained as the Vice President of our Order, he came along with Swami Prameyananda Maharaj, the then Manager of Belur Math, to meet Parvati Maharaj. Something of my personal interest happened during their visit. One day, when Gahanananda Maharaj and Prameyananda Maharaj were chitchatting with Parvati Maharaj all the brahmacharis, including me, went to offer our pranams to the three senior swamis. As we offered our pranams one by one, Gahananandaji asked our names. My premonastic name was Devashis, which means ‘God’s blessings’. The moment he heard my name, Gahananandaji asked, “Which God’s blessings?” I was bit puzzled and didn’t know what to answer. To clarify he again said, “When your parents named you, they must have thought of some God by whose blessings they have begotten you. So who is that God?” I replied that I was not sure of it. He again asked with a mischievous grin, “So don’t you think that now there will be a fight between that God, whosoever it might be, and Sri Ramakrishna in whom you have taken refuge?” I kept quiet as I was not sure what to answer. And then came the answer from the questioner himself, “Well you need not worry about it. Whosoever may be the God to whom you were dedicated by your parents, it’s after all Sri Ramakrishna alone. For isn’t Sri Ramakrishna sarva deva devi swarupa – the divine incarnate manifesting all the facets of divinity? In Him has mingled diverse faiths and beliefs. He is sarva-dharma-swarupa.” What a wonderful revelation!
— Swami Sunisthananda
During my years as a brahmachari, i.e., before sannyasa, I was very conscious about not accepting pranams from anyone. One day at a Railway station some devotees who had come to see off the sadhus were offering pranams. But I was jumping around and fidgeting, trying to prevent anyone from bowing down to me. Gahananandaji Maharaj who saw all this later told me, “What is all this? Why are you overdoing this? You have become a sadhu; so it is obvious that devotees will offer pranams. Instead of jumping around, you should accept the pranam calmly and dedicate it to Him for whom the pranams are meant. No one is offering pranam to you. They are offering it to Sri Sri Ramakrishna who dwells inside you.” An illusion was immediately removed for good.
— Swami Tapanananda